(JTA) — When a Florida synagogue canceled its “Beach Shabbat” services amid threats against one of its board members, the judge who signed the warrant authorizing an FBI search of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, it felt to some like a pivotal moment in the history of American antisemitism.
“The combination of a synagogue in Florida having to cancel Shabbat due to antisemitic threats against the Jewish judge who signed the Trump warrant, combined with right-wing media figures pointing out that Merrick Garland is Jewish, is making me very uneasy as an American Jew,” a doctoral student in American Jewish history named Joel Swanson wrote on Twitter.
Many of the attacks on Judge Bruce Reinhardt have referenced his Jewish identity, from a viral tweet by retired baseball player Lenny Dykstra to chatter on pro-Trump message boards. So, too, has criticism of Merrick Garland, the U.S. attorney general who authorized the search as part of an ongoing investigation into whether Trump may have violated the Espionage Act.
The torrent of antisemitic vitriol against them have raised concerns that Trump’s base, which has already shown potential for violence, could channel that rhetoric into action.
“We know that U.S. extremists are willing to act on their beliefs. And we know, for some of these extremists, antisemitism is adjacent to their other ideologies,” said Oren Segal, vice president of the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League.
Segal and others who pay attention to extremism say it’s fair for Jews to be concerned, given their history in the United States and elsewhere — but they are also quick to emphasize that the danger posed by Trump’s supporters threatens a far wider swath of Americans.
“I don’t think Mar-a-Lago means every Jewish person needs to keep their head on a swivel,” Segal said. “I just think we’re in a particular dangerous time in this country. And everybody should be concerned.”
Posts on social platforms that have catered to people whose views and rhetoric violate the rules of more mainstream sites show that antisemitic rhetoric continues to flow freely. One of them is Gab, the site used by the man who killed 11 Jews during their synagogue services in Pittsburgh in 2018, the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.
Another is Patriots.win, where users have been debating how much to blame Jews for the woes facing Trump. “Even if the judge who raided Trump is a Jew, and DOJ Garland is a Jew, we don’t blame all the Jews here!!!” one person wrote this week. Another responded: “I think you should blame whoever you want. I think we’re fast approaching a point in time where you might be able to do something about it.”
A third social media site populated with antisemitic rhetoric is Truth Social, the social media platform that Trump founded last year. One person there wrote, “Merrick Garland is an evil Jew pos!”
Another, posting to the same site, said “Garland is a dime a dozen, two bit, obnoxious, America hating, radical leftist Jew. the same with the judge Bruce Reinhart who signed off on the Raid of Maralago. Another radical leftist Jew whose social media attacked president Trump. Their sickness is embedded in their DNA. And that explains why they have been kicked out of 109 countries over the centuries.”
While the threats against Reinhart and Garland specifically reference their Jewishness, other calls for violence invoke long-standing conspiracy theories of Jewish control over the government.
“Name the Jew. FBI takes orders from above, and Jews run the Deep State,” one poster declared in response to calls by Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to defund the FBI.
“It used to be the case that the fringe was contained in a fringe,” said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “These were ideas that were over there in white supremacist world, maybe in the militia world, but we can’t make that distinction anymore.”
In an essay published Tuesday, Dan Rather, the former national news anchor who has emerged as a prominent voice warning against Trumpism, urged Americans of all backgrounds to take note of rising antisemitism and to push back against it.
“It is vital that we see how the fundamental rhetoric that has propelled antisemitism over many centuries around the globe helps fuel the larger Trump movement. This is about the ‘othering’ of Americans who don’t support Trump,” Rather wrote, with a Jewish collaborator, Elliott Kirschner.
They added, “Antisemitism is one virulent manifestation of this ‘us vs. them’ mindset. To survive and thrive, America must reject it in all of its forms.”
Rather’s statement, which he sent directly to his tens of thousands of newsletter subscribers and also shared with his millions of social media followers on Monday, comes as more Americans are soon to hear about the scourge of antisemitism in America.
An ad produced by the Jewish Democratic Council of America political action committee that makes the case that electing Democrats is the best way to rein in white supremacists and antisemites will soon go live in several states. The online ads will be shown to voters in Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Florida — all states with tight congressional and Senate races this year.
A nonpartisan take will air Sunday night as CNN premieres a new special, “Rising Hate: Antisemitism in America.” The episode, hosted by political correspondent Dana Bash, will include segments filmed in Poway, California, where an avowed white supremacist murdered a worshipper during a synagogue shooting in 2019; Colleyville, Texas, where a British Muslim man took a rabbi and three congregants hostage during a service in January; and a “command center” dedicated to monitoring antisemitism online.
CNN’s announcement of the special “white nationalists radicalized online perpetrating deadly shootings, and insidious conspiracy theories and tropes normalized by political leaders” as reasons for the “timely” special.
All together, the volatile moment has many Jews anxious as the investigation into Trump unfolds.
Reinhart recently ordered the Department of Justice to unseal parts of the warrant affidavit, renewing public interest in the investigation.
“Whenever there’s a normalization of threats or violence, the Jewish community is going to be a little bit more on edge,” said Segal. And for good reason, he added: “It has been targeted at times like this in the past.” PJC